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A CurtainUp London London Review
Be Good Revolutionaries

by Sebastian King

Open your eyes. Look within you. Are you satisfied with the life you're living? — Red
Be Good Revolutionaries
Citlalli Millan as Dark
(Photo: Jon Lee)
Dirty Market are a company specialising in ‘bricolage’ theatre, fusing art forms and materials to construct immediate and alternative theatrical experiences. Directors Georgina Sowerby and Jon Lee, along with the cast and creative team have, according to the programme, ‘improvised, written and constructed this piece together.’ Originally part of Ovalhouse’s ‘FiRST BiTES’ work-in-progress initiative in its early stages, Be Good Revolutionaries is now one of the flagship shows in the theatre’s continuing ‘Outlaws’ season, celebrating work ‘which runs on unruly idealism.’

A revolution is underway. The rebel leader has gone missing and his family await his return. But it’s clear that the dictatorial regime he’s gone to fight has left its mark on the family. Anna (Juliet Prague) runs her household with an iron fist, dishing out punishments to her children and rewarding good behaviour by giving out stars. Daily chores and meals are timed with countdowns from 10, and training sessions in guerrilla warfare have become routine. When a stranger arrives, her regime is thrown into disarray, and another revolution threatens to begin in her own home.

Heavily influenced by Latin American 'Day of the Dead' festival, Christopher Lawley's set sees the auditorium floor covered in a carpet of mud and bark, and the walls plastered with murals and writing. Apples are suspended from the ceiling, and we pass a colourful shrine of toys as we make our way to our seats. White shrouds hang from washing lines like cocoons, from which Anna’s three children emerge. A fourth child, Dark (Citlalli Millan) has already left the family home – and potentially the world of the living - and emerges instead from a pile of earth, rising from the dead as she continues to fight in her own revolution.

As an experience, Be Good Revolutionaries feels intimate, immediate, and at times dangerous. Surrounding the stage on three sides, we exist within the same space as these characters, and are part of their revolution. There are strong performances from the whole cast, with Juliet Prague’s tyrannical yet tragic portrait of a mother struggling to keep control and Francesca Dale as her brazenly curious daughter Red particularly memorable. Laura O’ Toole’s Emilia and Alex Britton’s Curly are similarly complex, and are imbued with just the right amount of childlike innocence and energy. However, if I have one complaint it is that the roles of Dark and The Stranger feel comparatively underdeveloped.

The language has moments of beautiful poetry, and Anne-Gaëlle Thiriot’s choreography is at times electrifying. But what stands out most of all is the music, provided by Rebecca Thorn who stalks the stage as an enigmatic observer of the action. Alternating between playing a pipe, an accordion and singing, Thorn provides a haunting soundtrack to the action of the play. It ends with her rendition of the folksong ‘I Wish, I Wish’ whose parting line ‘till apples grow on orange trees’ reminds us that some things will never happen no matter how hard we try.

The trailer for the show is a simple time-lapse film showing two seeds germinating, their shoots rapidly sprouting up. It’s a brilliantly appropriate metaphor for a show that is not only about the coming-of-age journey of three children on the cusp of adulthood, but about the growth of ideas and the cross-pollination of thoughts. Be Good Revolutionaries plants seeds in its audience’s minds that will continue to grow long after we have left our seats.

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Be Good Revolutionaries
Be Good Revolutionaries
Improvised and written by The Company
Directed by Georgina Sowerby and Jon Lee

Starring: Juliet Prague, Laura O' Toole, Francesca Dale, Alex Britton, Citlalli Millan, Liam Clarke, Rebecca Thorm
Set Design: Christopher Lawley
Lighting: Pablo Fernandez Baz
Sound Design: Josh Grey-Jung and Sam Morgan
Choreography: Anne-Gaëlle Thiriot
Running time: One hour 30 minutes without an interval
Box Office: 020 7582 7680
Booking to 23rd June 2012
Reviewed by Sebastian King based on 7th June performance at Ovalhouse, 52-54 Kennington Oval, London SE11 5SW (Tube: Oval)

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